Way too often I see my Goalkeepers standing on their goal line while all the action is going on in the other goalkeepers box 90 yards away. This leaves a huge space behind the backs of the defenders leaving enough space for long ball to be played and the keeper will find him/herself face to face with one of more strikers. The goalkeeper is the commander out on the field. The goalie needs to stay in vocal communication with the defense to communicate and direct the players. This requires a goalkeeper to be close enough so that the team can hear what they’re saying and cover the spaces opened up behind the defense..
Coaches in the most when it comes to youth soccer are clueless that goalkeepers can offer themselves as an easy back pass option or clear away the ball from behind the defense that is being pressed giving the defense time to adjust their positioning on the field based on the attacking threat.
Let’s start saying if the ball is on the other side of the field in or close to the other 18 yard box, the goalkeeper should be at least at the top of their 18 yard box, if not further, depending how fast the keeper is. When the play is on the other end of the field many keepers start adjusting their gloves or are looking towards Mom and Pop. Hell No! The goalkeeper has to stay focused in the event of a counterattack. It is important to keep moving and remain loose, always shake out the hands, shoulders, legs and arms, and focus always on the action happening on the field.
As the play moves out of the so-called defensive third the goalie needs to keep moving to or above the penalty spot, about 11-12 yards off the line, always facing the ball and positioned properly in the correct angle. The keepers placement will depend on where the ball is located at midfield. Why is it that many goalkeeper coaches teach keepers the importance of the correct angle during a shot on goal but just a handful of us will teach them at what angle they must be when the ball is out of shooting reach? Teaching the keeper proper positioning while the ball is at midfield can help a keeper cope with coming-through balls that lead in most cases to breakaway situations out of the 18 yard box or with their hands at the very limit of the box.
How many times have we witnessed a 25-35 yard ball played over the defense to a striker taking off at full speed towards goal? I see this situation at every game! It causes the back line to panic leading to many if not a dozen breakaway situations. If the keeper is positioned like they should be they may be in the best position to sprint out and take care of the danger.
The team and keeper needs to be very familiar with the space left behind the defense and to understand who’s ball is it and why. The most important factors are the distance and speed of the attacker, also and just as important is the pace and distance of the pass and location of the defense. The goalkeeper has to analyse these situations and take action if needed, the keeper needs to understand what is within their range and what is not. Playing a little higher helps the goalie (like already stated) stay in contact with the defense.
But what happens and where should the keeper be when the ball is in his/her 3/4’s? The goalie should be positioned 2 to a max of 6 yards off the goal line depending on the location of the ball. A ball that is being moved around at 30 yards out is of shot-on-goal concern but should always be treated as a threat. The goalkeeper also has to always make the swift decision to narrow the angle, or instruct a defender to keep the striker outside. When the ball is around the 18 yard box breakaway situations arise much more frequently made and a keeper’s poor positioning will end up in most cases in a goal.
Why is all of the above important? If the keeper knows how to make saves isn’t all this worthless? Nope! Because as well as making saves, a goalkeeper’s job is to provide support for their defense. A good position also means the goalkeeper is available to receive a back passes from an under-pressure defender.
This is just a taste of where the keeper should be during the game, there is a lot more to it, a lot! The goalkeeper is a specialist position a bread of its own, so he/she deserves special attention. That’s why we have an academy for that special bread!